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The Isin-Larsa and Old Babylon Period

Isin, Larsa, and Babylon all begin as city states, but they come to dominate the period after the fall of the III Dynasty of Ur. Larsa soon encompases most of traditional Sumer, while Isin and Babylon are more at the Akkadian end of the area. However, just as the Sumerians fade from history, there is the infusion of a new Semitic speaking people, the Amorites. Babylon itself, hitherto unattested in Sumerian or Akkadian texts, could well be an Amorite foundation, although cultural assimilation is rapid, and it is the Amorite kings who permanently establish the cultural dominance of the Akkadian language, now taking on the form of a Babylonian dialect. Amorite itself ends up so poorly attested that its affinities in the Semitic family are uncertain. Under the celebrated Hammurabi, Babylon comes to dominate Sumer and Akkad, beginning the process by which the area simply become "Babylonia." For a while, Babylon expands into a domain comparable to that of Sargon or Ur III. This ended abruptly, has often the case in Mesopotamia, with an invasion, in this case that extraordinary raid of the early Hittites on Babylon. An obscure and poorly dated era follows, with the "Sealand" (Babylon II) Dynasty in the south and the Kassites (Babylon III) filling the vacuum in the middle.



Gandash c.1730
Agum I  
Kashtiliash I  
Kashtiliash II  
Kassite Dynasty or
Dynasty III of Babylon
Agum II c.1570
Burnaburiash I  
Kashtiliash III  
Agum III  
Kadashman-harbe I  
Kurigalzu I  
Kadashman-Enlil I  
Burnaburiash II 1375-1347
Karahardash 1347-1345
Kurigalzu II 1345-1324
Nazimaruttash 1323-1298
Kadashman-Turgu 1297-1280
Kadashman-Enlil II 1279-1265
Kudur-Enlil 1265-1255
Shagarakti-Shuriash 1255-1243
Kashtiliash IV 1243-1235
Assyrian governors, 1235-1227
Adad-shuma-us.ur 1218-1189
Melishipak 1188-1174
Marduk-apal-iddina I 1173-1161
Zababa-shuma-iddina 1161-1159
Enlil-nadin-shhê 1159-1157
Dynasty IV of Babylon
or Dynasty II of Isin
Marduk-kabit-ahhêshu 1156-1139
Nebuchadrezzar I 1124-1103
Adad-apla-iddina 1067-1046
Marduk-zêr-X 1046-1032
Nabû-shum-libur 1032-1025
Dynasty V of Babylon
Simbar-shipak 1024-1007
[2 kings] 1007-1004
Dynasty VI of Babylon
Eulma shakin-shumi 1003-987
[2 kings] 986-984
Dynasty VII of Babylon
Mâr-bîti-apla-us.ur 984-977
Dynasty VIII of Babylon
Nabû-mukin-apli 977-942
Festivals suspended because
of Aramaean invasions,
Ninurta-kudurri-us.ur 942-941
Mâr-bîti-ahhê-iddina 941-?
Shamash-mudammiq ?-c.900
Nabû-shuma-ukin 899-888?
Nabû-apla-iddina 887-855?
Marduk-zakir-shumi I 854-819
Assyrian influence, 853
[5 kings]  
Eriba-Marduk 769-761
Nabû-shuma-ishkun 760-748
Dynasty IX (& X) of Babylon
Chaldeans occupy
Babylon, 734
[2 kings] 734-732
Nabû-mukin-zêri 732-721
Marduk-apal-iddina II,
Sargon II, 710-705
Mardukzakirshum 705-702
Mardukapalidinna III
Bêl-bini 702-700
Ashur-nadin-shumi 699-694
[king] 694-693
Mushezib-Marduk 693-689
Assyrian sack of Babylon, 689
Shamash-shuma-ukin 668-648
Kandalanu 647-627
Dynasty X (or XI)
of Babylon; the Chaldean
Aramaean Dynasty;
Neo-Babylonian Period
Overthrows Assyria, 614-609
Judah subjugated, 587
Amêl Marduk 562-560
Nergalsharus.ur 560-556
Labâshi Marduk 556
Sealand Dynasty or
Dynasty II of Babylon
Iluma-ilum c.1732
[5 kings]  
Ea-gâmil c.1460

The list and dates here are from Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq [Penguin, 1966, 1992], pp. 507-512. There are some curious differences between the 1966 and the 1992 editions, which Roux does not discuss. The chronology is poorly known.

It was long thought that the Kassites, a people of neither Semitic nor Indo-European linguistic affinity, had an Indo-European/Iranian warrior nobility. The evidence for this was thin, and the tendency now seems to be to discount the possibility [cf. Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East, c.3000-330 BC, Routledge, 1995, 2000, volume I, pp.333-334]. Theirs was the longest lasting Babylonian dynasty. Because of the relative dearth of information, it was long thought to be a period without much in the way of cultural development. However, it now appears that the Kingdom stretched all the way to Bahrain and accomplished much in the way of the cultural unification of Lower Mesopotamia -- which now simply and truly becomes "Babylonia," more than just the imperial possession of a city-state. Babylonian diplomatic correspondence with Egypt is found in the Amarna archive, telling us rather more about the Babylonian Kings than we know from the records in Babylonia.


1999 AD + 747 = 2746 Annô Nabonassari
747-733 1 AN
733-731 15 AN
Ukîn-zêr & Pulu,
Khinzêr & Póros
731-726 17 AN
726-721 22 AN
721-709 27 AN
Sargon II
709-704 39 AN
no kings 704-702 44 AN
702-699 46 AN
699-693 49 AN
693-692 55 AN
692-688 56 AN
Assyrian sack and
destruction of
Babylon, no kings
688-680 60 AN
680-667 68 AN
667-647 81 AN
647-625 101 AN
625-604 123 AN
604-561 144 AN
Awêl Marduk,
561-559 187 AN
669-555 189 AN
555-538 193 AN
Cyrus the Great 538-529 210 AN
Cambyses 529-522 219 AN
Darius I 521-486 227 AN
Xerxes I 486-465 263 AN
Artaxerxes I
465-424 284 AN
Darius II 424-405 325 AN
Artaxerxes II Mnemon 405-359 344 AN
Artaxerxes III Ochus 359-338 390 AN
Arses 338-336 411 AN
Darius III
336-332 413 AN
Alexander (III)
the Great
332-324 417 AN
Philip (III) 324-317 425 AN
Alexander (IV) 317-305 432 AN
Ptolemy I Soter I 305-285 444 AN
Ptolemy II
285-247 464 AN
Ptolemy III Euergetes 247-222 502 AN
Ptolemy IV Philopator 222-205 527 AN
Ptolemy V Epiphanes 205-180 544 AN
Ptolemy VI Philometor 180-146 568 AN
Ptolemy VIII
Euergetes II
146-117 603 AN
Ptolemy IX Soter II 117-81 632 AN
Ptolemy XII
Neo Dionysus
81-52 668 AN
Thea Philopator
52-30 BC 697 AN
Augustus 30 BC-
14 AD
719 AN
Tiberius I 14-36 762 AN
Caligula 36-40 784 AN
Claudius I 40-54 788 AN
Nero 54-68 802 AN
Vespasian 68-78 816 AN
Titus 78-81 826 AN
Domitian 81-96 829 AN
Nerva 96-97 844 AN
Trajan 97-116 845 AN
Hadrian 116-137 864 AN
Antoninus Pius 137-160 885 AN

Of great interest in the period after the fall of the Kassites is the beginning of the chronology later preserved in Claudius Ptolemy's Canon of Kings. Passed on by Hellenistic Babylonian priests, like Kidunnu and Berossos, were astronomical observations dating back to the reign of Nabûnâs.ir (Nabonassar), starting in 747 (Dynasty IX of Babylon). The names of some kings have gotten somewhat garbled in Greek translation:  The Babylonian and Assyrian equivalents are given by E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell University Press, 1968, 1982], pp.109-110. These were given in regal years. Although there was long some scepticism about the accuracy of the Canon, the dates of the astronomical events can now be confirmed by modern calculation. This makes the reign of Nabonassar the foundation of all Mesopotamian chronology. What Ptolemy did with this, however, made it the basis of all ancient chronology, since he extended the list all the way down through the Persian kings, the Ptolemies, and the Roman Emperors to his own time (in the reign of Marcus Aurelius). This made it possible to date events in the Era of Nabonassar, though for the dates Ptolemy, who lived in Egypt, used the unmodified Egyptian calendar, which had a 365 day year, without leap years. So the Nabonassaran calendar gains a year on the Julian calendar every 1460 years (the "Sothic cycle"). In 1999, the Nabonassaran year 2748 began on April 24. In purely solar years, such as the Babylonian calendar used itself, 1999 would be only Nabonassaran year 2746.


Deioces c.728-675
Phraortes 675-653
Cyaxares 653-585
Overthrows Assyria, 614-609;
Conquers Urart.u, 585;
Battle of the Eclipse, 585
Astyages 585-550

The fall of the Assyrian empire came with surprising suddenness. The Medes and the Babylonians, who cooperated in defeating Assyria, divided the Asiatic domain of the Assyrians between them. (Egypt had meanwhile liberated itself.)

The daughter of the Median king Cyaxares was married to the son, Nebuchadnezzar, of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar. The famous result of this was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built to assuage the homesickness of the bride for the mountains of Iran. Nabûchadnezzar, in turn, perpetuated one Assyrian practice by relocating subjects to populate the city of Babylon. The Babylonian Captivity of the Jews, after he took Jerusalem in 587, is the most famous example of that.


Ardys I c.800?
Alyattes I  
Myrsus (Meles)  
Gyges 685-644
Ardys II 644-615
Sadyattes 615-610
Alyattes II 610-560
Battle of the Eclipse, 585
Croesus 560-547
The Medes expanded their domain at the expense of Anatolian kingdoms, culminating in the Battle of the Eclipse on 28 May 585 BC with the Lydians. The eclipse (first contact, 18h 10m local time; maximum eclipse, 90% total, 19h 02m, just before sunset; last contact 19h 52m, after sunset), supposedly predicted by the philosopher Thales, ended the battle and the war. The balance of power between Media, Babylonian, Lydia, and Egypt was generally maintained until a new king came to the throne of Persia, a vassal of Media, in 559.


Gordios I 10th cent.
Midas I  
Gordios II  
Midas II  
Gordios III  
Midas III 738-695
Gordios IV 695
Overrun by Cimmerians, annexed by Lydia, 695-626
Lydia entering the scene of Great Power conflict brings Western Anatolia back on the stage of history, for the first time since the fall of the Hittites. Lydia itself has a long legendary history, supposedly dating back to Herakles, but it is not dateable until the time of Gyges. One other Anatolian kingdom, although its history is poorly known and hardly dateable and it is overrun early by the Cimmerians (who would perform the same service for Urart.u), is Phrygia, which is noteworthy, not only because its identity survives into the Roman period (having originated back in the 11th century, at least), but because two noteworthy legends were associated with it. All of its reported kings are named Midas and Gordios. Which is which in the legends is a good question. With one Midas, however, we get the story of the "Midas Touch," that the king wished for, and received, the power to turn anything to gold by touching it. Unfortunately, this was an unconditional power, and there was no way he could touch anything, even food or family, without turning them to gold. So it was a power that would grieve and then starve him. With some Gordios we have a more historical account. The king is supposed to have woven an gigantic knot, attended with the prophecy that the man who could undo it would conquer the world. When Alexander the Great arrived, beheld the knot, and was told of the prophecy, he simply drew his sword and cut the knot. Alexander did, more or less, conquer the world, and we are left with an expression, "cutting the knot," which is probably used most often without awareness of its origin. The knot, however, may not be named after an eponymous king, but after the capital of Phrygia, Gordion (Gordium). This was not far west of Angora, the capital of Galatia. Galatia was founded by Celts who invaded Greece in 279 and entered Anatolia by 278. Most of Phrygia was overrun in this invasion/migration and so came to be overlain by Galatia.


of Sais
Neko (Nechaô) I 672-664
Psamtik (Psammêtichos) I 664-610
Expels Assyrians, 655
Neko II 610-595
Psamtik II 595-589
Wah.ibre (Apriês/Uaphris) 589-570
Ah.mose (Amôsis) II 570-526
Psamtik III 526-525
Persian Conquest, 525

The system of Thirty Dynasties was formulated by the Egyptian priest Manethô, writing in Greek under the Ptolemies. The Persians, who overthrew the XXVI Dynasty in 525, were reckoned by Manethô as the XXVII Dynasty. Sometimes the last Persian rulers of Egypt (Artaxerxes III, etc.) are called the "XXXI Dynasty." This proposal is an ancient one, handed down by the Christian Chronographer Julius Africanus. Sometimes the Ptolemies are called the "XXXII Dynasty," but this is a modern suggestion.

The XXVI Dynasty represents the greatest flowering of the Egyptian state and civilization since the New Kingdom. Sadly, it was also the last hurrah of Ancient Egypt. The Saite Kings almost seem aware of that themselves. They carried out probably the first official exploration of the pyramids, copying the Old Kingdom art they discovered and introducing their own burials into tombs that were already two thousand years old. This antiquarian project is then found together with the first hints of the Hellenistic Age, since the reliance of the Saite Kings on Greek mercenary soldiers and the significant presence of Greek traders in Egypt launches a Greek presence that soon enough becomes dominant. This may have been a factor in the overthrow of Apriês by Ah.mose II. Apriês may have become unpopular by being too closely associated with the Greeks, since the Egyptians didn't like foreigners very much. Then Ah.mose dealt with this by directing the foundation of Naucratis as the emporium and colony for all the Greeks in Egypt. That succeeds admirably, and Egypt continues to draw on Greek help all through the history of the Persian empire.


Teispes 675-640
Cyrus I 640-600
Cambyses I 600-559
Cyrus (Kurush) II, the Great 559-530
overthrows Medes, 550;
conquers Lydia, 547;
conquers Babylon, 539
Cambyses (Kambujiya) II 530-522
conquers Egypt, 525;
of Egypt
Darius (Darayavahush) I 522-486
invades Greece, defeated at the
battle of Marathon, 490
Xerxes (Xshayarsha) I 486-465
invades Greece, defeated at the battles
of Salamis and Platea, 480, 479
Artaxerxes (Artaxshassa) I
Xerxes II 424-423
Darius II 423-404
Egypt breaks away, 404
Artaxerxes II Mnemon 404-359
Artaxerxes III Ochus 359-338
reconquers Egypt, 343;
Arses (Arsha) 338-336
Darius III Codomannus 336-330
Macedonian Conquest

Cyrus the Great overthrew, in turn, the Medes, Lydians, and Babylonians, suddenly creating an empire far larger than even the Assyrian. Cyrus was better able, through more benign policies, to reconcile his subjects to Persian rule; and the longevity of his empire was one result. The Persian king, like the Assyrian, was also "king of kings," xshayathiya xshayathiyânâm (shâhanshâh in modern Persian) -- "great king," megas basileus, as known by the Greeks. Alexander the Great, after he ultimately overthrew the Persians, deliberately assumed the universal pretensions of the Achaemenid kings, but the division of his empire after his early death eliminates any factual universality until the Roman Empire.

Macedonia quietly grew into a power that, under Philip II, would dominate Greece and, in short order, turn against Persia. It is a little odd to think of all these monarchs, so important in Greek history, as not actually being Greek; but, like neighboring Epirus, they are not. A revealing point in this respect is the epithet "Philhellene" of Alexander I. No Greek needs to be called "loving the Greeks." Exactly what the linguistic affinities of the Macedonians were is unclear. That it could be to the later Illyrians, or Thracians, or even modern Albanians, is always possible, but the matter is largely speculative. Whatever it was, the Philhellenism of the Kings soon created a layer of Greek culture that made them seem proper Greeks to everyone except, of course, the actual Greeks. The Macedonian monarchy itself also struck the Greeks as rather un-Greek. When Philip added his own statue to a procession of the Twelve Olympians, his assassination shortly thereafter suggested that the gods had been offended. If so, his son, Alexander III, was untroubled, initiating Hellenistic practice by assuming divine attributes -- something else to scandalize the Greeks, if by then anyone actually cared. The modern Macedonians are actually Slavs, but nearly everything about both the ancient and modern peoples is disputed by them and by Modern Greeks.


Egypt, which was added to the Persian empire by Cyrus's son Cambyses, frequently revolted against the Persians. The Persian invasion of Greece in 490 was in part to be punishment of the Greeks for helping the Egyptians in these revolts. Since the invasion of 480 was then in revenge for the failure of the invasion of 490, we could say that the consequences of Greek interference in Egypt were persistent. But the Egyptians and the Greeks kept at it, and eventually...


of Sais
Amyrteos 404-399
of Mendes
Nepheritês I 399-393
Psammûthis 393
Achôris 393-380
Nepheritês II 380
of Sebennytus
Nectanebos I
Takhôs 362-361
Nectanebos II
Persian Reconquest, 343
A revolt succeeded, and Egypt was independent for sixty years late in the empire. This was the last time Egypt was actually ruled by Egyptians until King Farûk (who was descended from the Albanian Muhammad Ali) was overthrown in 1952.

Little is known about this entire period apart from the names given by Manethô and references by Greek historians. The name of the only ruler of the XXVIII Dynasty is not even known from any Egyptian inscriptions. Only the XXX Dynasty, with two substantial reigns, did any kind of building in the old royal manner. After the brief restoration of Persian rule, the next established dynastic government in Egypt was the Ptolemies.

The Kings of the XXX did a great deal of building. Nekhtnebef began the temple at Philae, at Aswan, that later was enlarged by Ptolemies and the Romans, and which many centuries later was the last place where hieroglyphics were still being inscribed. Nekhth.areh.be fled before the Persians into Kush. We do not know how long he then lived, but King Nastasen of Kush may have made an attempt to restore him -- despite the way that the XXVI Dynasty Kings had attempted to erase from Egypt the names of all the XXV Dynasty Kings.


Agiads Euryponids
Anaxandridas c.560-520 Ariston c.550-515
Cleomenes I c.520-490 Demaratus c.515-491
Leonidas I 490-480 Leotychidas II 491-469
killed at Thermopylae, 480
Pleistarchus 480-459 Archidamus II 469-427
Pleistoanax 459-409 Agis II 427-400
Pausanias 409-395 Agesilaus II 399-360
Agesipolis I 395-380
Cleombrotus I 380-371
killed at Leuctra, 371
Agesipolis II 371-370 Archidamus III 360-338
Cleomones II 370-309 Agis III 338-331
Eudamidas I 331-c.305
Areus I 309-265 Archidamus IV c.305-275
silver coinage;
killed in Chremonidean
War, 265
Acrotatus 265-262 Eudamidas II c.275-244
Areus II 262-254
Leonidas II 254-235 Agis IV c.244-241
Eudamidas III 241-c.228
Cleomenes III 235-222 Archidamus V 228-227
tries reforms, defeated
by Arcadians, 222;
flees to Egypt
Eucleidas 227-221
Agesipolis III 219-215 Lycurgus 219-c.212
assassinated; Sparta annexed to Achaean League, 192
Sparta, along with all the other strange and horrible characteristics of its constitution, had a peculiar dual monarchy. Key moments in Greek history are marked by the death of Spartan kings. The fall of Leonidas to the Persians at Thermopylae (480), with 300 Spartans, is one of the classic moments of world history. The death of Cleombrotus at Leuctra (371), surprised by the tactics of the great Theban general Epaminondas, is nearly as significant, signaling both the end of Spartan hegemony over Greece and a military revolution. Epaminondas liberated Messinia, which Sparta had long enslaved, and Sparta was reduced to Laconia, in the southeast corner of the Peloponnesus.

Less epochal but of particular interest is an event of 361. King Agesilaus II was given a banquet by the King of Egypt (this would have been Takhôs of the XXX Dynasty). As customary at Egyptian celebrations, the Egyptians wore cones of fat and perfume on their heads. Agesilaus was so offended by the perfume -- prohibited at Sparta -- that he walked out.

Sparta maintained its independence into the Hellenistic Period, but it began to lose its distinctive cultural and political character. Areus I introduced silver coinage, and wealth eroded the old communal and miltary traditions of the city. Indeed, wealth and poverty grew together, and the number of Spartan citizens was gravely reduced as many fell below the property qualification. King Agis IV tried to reverse all this with a program to forgive debts, redistribute land, and recruit new citizens from the perioikoi, the non-citizens who had always lived around Sparta. Agis forced his royal colleague, Leonidas II, into exile; but then Leonidas returned and killed Agis. Nevertheless, the son of Leonidas, Cleomenes III, put all of Agis's reforms into effect. Cleomenes even allowed many Helots, the virtual slaves at the bottom of Spartan society, to buy their freedom. All this attracted the attention and support of the many of the poor elsewhere in Greece, and Spartan affairs took on larger overtones. Cleomenes himself was tempted to expand against the Achaean League, but he was defeated and driven into exile by the Achaeans and Macedonians (222). The last Spartan King, Nabis, tried his own version of Cleomenes' social revolution; but Sparta was annexed by Achaea when Nabis was assassinated.

This list is from E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell Univesity Press, 1968-1982], p. 126. Bickerman mentions that "the earlist datable kings are Polydoris and Theopompus (first half of the seventh century). A reliable list of kings begins with" those shown.



Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.










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